On a massive dockside platform just outside of the Marine Air Station, several large trucks were being unloaded. Cranes lifted heavily wrapped pallets out over the water. Here the great base portion of the undersea dome floated with the aid of giant inflatable pods. Dozens of workmen on the floating base, unpacked triangular panes of transparent Astridium, fitting them together like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Others constructed an internal frame that would hold the three floors in place. Paige Liebowitz carefully oversaw the operation.
“Is everything going okay?” asked Astrid, running up to her.
“Everything is on schedule,” the wavy-haired woman replied. “We should have the floors constructed this morning and the dome assembled by this afternoon. Then tomorrow we can float it out to the site. The foundation has already been laid using hydraulic cement just north of the reef at a depth of 175 feet. So we just sink it down and bolt it in place. While that’s going on, the workmen here can assemble the Astridium elevator.”
“It’s going to have an elevator?” asked Mr. Diaz, from behind Astrid.
“Sure,” she said, turning around. “That way people can go back and forth from the surface without having to scuba dive. It also serves as an airlock, since the dome will be kept at a pressure of one atmosphere inside.”
“I thought it was going to be down deeper,” said Mr. Brown.
“The Astridium can withstand the pressure up to a depth of 300 feet,” explained Astrid. “I chose 175 feet for two reasons, one being safely. This is a test after all. Plus, I want the people in the dome to be able to see without a lot of external lighting. At 300 feet, it gets pretty dark.”
“We have a construction ship coming on site tomorrow. It has cables to guide the dome down, and a crane to lower the elevator shaft,” explained Paige. “We’ll attach it to the dome and then pump out the water.”
“What’s in all those crates?” Mr. Diaz asked, pointing to a truck just pulling up.
“Equipment for inside and furniture,” replied Astrid.
“And that is my cue,” said Mr. Brown. “I’ve got to make sure that my chairs and lounges are set up properly.”
“Martin and I are going to roll up our sleeves and do some manual labor,” said Mr. Harris, as he and Toby’s father joined the workmen assembling the dome.
“Sound like fun,” said Dr. Maxxim.
Over the next several hours, Astrid watched as her dome slowly took shape, rising first to form a ring and then growing up until it became a geodesic dome—a half sphere fifty feet tall and one hundred feet in diameter. She moved from spot to spot around the dome, checking the Astridium panes and double-checking the fastenings. The three scientist/engineers who had taken on jobs as workmen had a great time, but Astrid was sure that they had actually increased the construction time by at least an hour. Mr. Brown however had successfully loaded all the furniture and equipment on board, and had overseen the installation of all the vital mechanisms.
“I’m starving,” said Dr. Maxxim, exiting out of the open emergency airlock along with Mr. Harris and Mr. Bundersmith, all three of them looking exhausted and happy.
Mr. Diaz, who had been working with a liaison from the Marine Corps all morning, guided them toward the van.
“I’m told there’s a pizza shop right around the corner,” he said.
“Pizza doesn’t sound very Hawaiian,” said Mr. Harris.
“Hawaiian Pizza,” replied Mr. Diaz.